Friday, February 6, 2015

Black History Month: Charlotte's Neptune Fire Company

From 1887 until the early 1900s an all-black company of volunteers supplied much of the manpower for Charlotte's fledgling fire department.   

(The fire company took their name from 'The Neptune' hand pump fire engine that was built by William Jeffers.)

In the later part of the 1800s, the Neptunes earned a reputation as skilled volunteers who often engaged in good natured competition with white firefighters. 

This included races to see who could get to a fire scene first!

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The Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library maintains an original ledger statement from 1867 that lists the names of African-American citizens who were paid work “working the new fire engine”. (Thanks to librarian Leslie Kesler!)

Undated. Courtesy CFD Fire Museum.

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The Neptunes were a mix of prominent African-American businessmen, educators and community leaders, working alongside common laborers. Records show the city even paid some of the team's expenses, though its equipment was typically hand-me-downs from the white firefighting companies, officials said.

With special thanks to CFD Battalion Chief Tom Link for his valuable input!

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June 26, 1892

September 30, 1892

October 6, 1892

January 14, 1893

March 7, 1893

June 2, 1893

June 8, 1893

July 8, 1893

September 9, 1893

April 21, 1894

July 20, 1894

August 18, 1896

June 17, 1897

July 8, 1897

February 12, 1899

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'Deputy Chief Howard 'Pete' Key, a veteran Charlotte-Mecklenburg firefighter, stands in front of a fire truck used by the Neptunes, a company of black firefighters that operated in Charlotte during the 1800s.'
Staff Photo: T. Ortega Gaines. 2013

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A nice recap written in 1912

December 19, 1912

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More on the egg disaster.

 EGGPhoto of Samuel Richardson at rightBloodshed After the Fire----Sam Richardson, a Colored Fireman, Runs into Wilder's Drug Store and Drops Dead on the Floor--Killed by a Fellow Fireman
About one o'clock yesterday after noon, as Trade street was crowded with people looking at the ruins of the still smoldering fire, their attention was suddenly diverted by a commotion further down the street near the Hornet engine House. A colored man, with blood streaming from his throat, was seen to run from Kirk's bar room, next door to the engine house, to Dr. Wilder's Drug Store on the Corner of College and Trade streets, and an excited crowd followed him and stood around the door of the drug store which was closed immediately after the wounded man entered. He proved to be a colored fireman named Sam Richardson, and he had scarcely entered the drug store when he fell to the floor, gave a gasp and expired. He had been stabbed by another colored man named Isaiah Bronson.    Both men had been working at the fire since 5 o'clock yesterday morning and both had done good service. They had taken several drinks of whiskey and as they met at Kirk's bar both were feeling the effects of their drink. Bronson went to the bar and found Richardson there, and the two men commenced talking in a jocular manner to each other Bronson had an egg in his coat pocket and Richardson slapped his hand on the pocket and broke the egg. This angered Bronson who remarked to Richardson: "That egg will cost you $7 at the mayor's court Monday morning." Bronson then stepped out the door and called "police," when he again entered the bar. Richardson walked up to Bronson and slapped him in the face, and Bronson stepped backward to the door, Richardson following him up. They struck at each other simultaneously and Richardson fell back with blood streaming from his throat. Mr. Duffy, the saloon keeper, told Richardson to run to the drug store, which he did, and the result has already been stated.

From this site:

Photo of Samuel Richardson given by Cecelia Wilson his grand daughter.


November 21, 1913


Tom Link said...

Thank you for bring attention to these men and the valuable contributions they made to Charlotte. The origins of the Neptune Volunteer Fire Company goes back further to a select company of enslaved African-American men who served as firemen prior to the end of the Civil War. The earliest record of their service is found in 1867 payroll records for "working the new engine". This "new engine" was the 1866 Jeffers Fire Engine that was purchased during Charlotte Reconstruction period.

Anonymous said...

Bring back the harmless "colored" word for all 3 races since they are all colored.

NAACP "Colored People" is OK but not by itself?

The 3 races on earth were classified by archaeologists as European white caucasoid race, Asian red-yellow mongoloid race and African black negroid race.

This came from the 3 sons of Noah, Shem Japheth and Ham, who survived the flood with their wives to re-populate the earth after the failed single human race of middle east Mesopotamia or modern day Iraq was wiped out.

And white is a color like red yellow and black. Check your Crayola box. White was the original color. "Let there be light" ? Time to get off all this sensitivity BS pc trash and lies for this and other "forbidden" words.

This restrictive pc crap getting old and SUX. How about it all you white red yellow and black colored people?

The pc age has way to many hang ups. Maybe this is their problem.